WORCESTER – Kyle Van De Water, a lawyer, Army veteran and father of three triplets – his daughter, challenged since her days in the womb, has undergone 30 operations in her 10 years – received the unanimous backing of the Otsego and Schoharie county Republican committees’ executive committees here this evening to challenge freshman Congressman Antonio Delgado, D-Rhinebeck, in this fall’s election.
The straw poll, while expressing the executive committees’ consensus, must still be affirmed by a meeting of the two full county committees.
Meeting at Worcester’s White House Inn, executive committee members heard from both Van De Water and the other Republican contender, Ola Hawatmeh, a Poughkeepsie native and successful fashion entrepreneur in St. Louis, Mo.
SCHENEVUS – Partner in his father’s market, executive with a multinational food corporation, entrepreneur in his own market-research firm, town supervisor, county representative and, now, candidate for state Senate from the Otsego-County-centric 51st District.
Grounded in Main Street and Wall Street, Peter Oberacker confirmed Tuesday, Jan. 28, that he will seek to carry forward the 34-year legacy of the retiring state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford.
“It’s been reassuring to have a state senator who knows us by name,” said the 53-year-old Republican from Schenevus, That’s also “the hardest part: trying to emulate Jim Seward, how he’s been serving the district for 30-40 years in a calming, non-controversial way.
The way forward opened up Tuesday evening as Assemblyman Chris Tague, R-Schoharie, whose district includes four Otsego County towns and was seen as the leading Republican contender to succeed Seward, took himself out of the running. He cited loyalty to his 102nd District, where he was elected less than two years ago.
In the next two weeks, Oberacker said, county Republican Chairman Vince Casale will be introducing him to the county chairmen in the other eight counties in the 51st District, asking for their support.
Initial soundings he’s taken are encouraging, Casale said. “It’s important for us to keep representation in Otsego County” – it’s also the geographic center of the 51st – “as we’ve enjoyed for the past 34 years,” he added.
Asked about Oberacker’s intentions, Seward said “I’ve known the Oberacker family for decades. He has the right skill set, demeanor and experience to make a great candidate.” If Oberacker wins the support of the county GOP chairmen, “he certainly will have my full support. I would consider him a very worthy successor.”
Before Seward announced he will be retiring on Dec. 31, when his current term ends, Jim Barber, a Schoharie farmer and son of J. Roger Barber, state Ag & Markets commissioner in the Carey Administration, announced he was seeking the Democratic nomination. It’s unknown if other Democrats will now emerge.
Locally, two possible Democratic contenders, former Oneonta Mayor John Nader, now SUNY Farmingdale president, and Dan Crowell, the former county treasurer who is leaving the Army Reserves after returning this month from Somalia, have both said they are not interested in a Senate campaign.
Oberacker and his two sisters were born on Long Island. As his father, Peter Sr., used to tell it, the family’s VW bus “ran out of gas and I bought a house.” Actually, the son says, his mother’s parents lived in the area.
The son was 5 at the time and grew up locally, graduating from Schenevus’ Andrew Draper High School, then studying food sales and distribution at SUNY Delhi.
He joined his father in operating Spicy Pete’s Meats, a retail and wholesaler. When his father passed away in 1993, the son joined General Spice, then became an executive chef at Conagra, developing Wendy’s spicy chicken breast, among other products.
By the turn of the century, he was working for German-based Budenheim USA, a food-additive company. When Budenheim laid off U.S. executives, he and a colleague, Ron Wheeler, founded their own company, FormTech Solutions.
The R&D firm located in College Station, applying research developed by Texas A&M scientists to industry. In 2018, Oberacker, the CEO, and Wheeler, the COO/president, moved the company to the Town of Maryland, east of Schenevus.
Oberacker and his wife Carol have two grown children, Holli and Derek.
During this period, Oberacker had been calling on accounts nationwide and commuting back and forth between College Station and the family’s home on Smokey Avenue. He was elected Maryland town supervisor and, then, in 2015, was elected to the county Board of Representatives, succeeding Worcester’s Don Lindberg.
He quickly began to accumulate responsibilities, for the past two years as chairman of the Public Works Committee, which is currently studying a possible combined highway garage at the Northern Catskill BOCES in Milford, among other initiatives.
On learning of Seward’s decision to retire, Oberacker said he was concerned that initiatives of particular interest to him – a prospective 300-job distribution center at Schenevus’ I-88 exit, and a finding a safe berth for students in the financially troubled Schenevus Central School District – would fall by the wayside.
The first step of any prospective candidate, he said, is “you go to your wife, and you basically ask permission.” Then “I called my business partner. He looked at me as if I’d lost my head.” However, “they both supported me,” and the effort was launched.
This story’s been related in this space before: Congressman Tim Holden, a Democrat from Pennsylvania’s anthracite county, used to tell campaign crowds: “I’m the only one of 435 Congressmen who gets up every morning and says to himself, ‘What can I do for Schuylkill County today?’”
It’s also said that if you don’t appreciate what you have, you lose it.”
The vignette and the aphorism are germane today, with the prospective year-end retirement of state Sen. Jim Seward,
R-Milford, and now, with the emergence of county Rep. Peter Oberacker, R-Schenevus, as his prospective successor – and, so far, his only prospective successor from Otsego County.
Oberacker put it well: “It’s been reassuring to have a state senator who knows us by name.”
If he knows us by name, he greets us on the street, he listens to our opinions and, when we need his help, he responds.
To Otsego County citizens, there is no greater issue in this fall’s election than to keep the 51st State Senate District represented by a local man or woman. (Wait, wait: After all, regardless of how the county votes, New York State will go for the as-yet-unnamed Democrat.)
In last week’s article on Republican Assemblyman Chris Tague’s prospective run for the 51st, it was pointed out that no mention was made of Jim Barber, the Schoharie farmer and son of former Ag & Markets Commissioner J. Roger Barber, the prospective Democratic standard bearer.
In our defense, that part of the article dealt with trying to identify in-county successors to Jim Seward.
But we’ll admit that Barber simply didn’t figure in our, granted, somewhat parochial, ruminations.
Of course, former Oneonta Mayor John Nader, now SUNY Farmingdale president, came to mind, as did the charismatic Dan Crowell, former county treasurer and a military man.
Mayors Herzig of Oneonta and Tillapaugh of Cooperstown are prospects and, even moreso, Tillapaugh’s predecessor, Jeff Katz, still in his 50s and with plenty of brains and drive.
Come on, Democrats, put your best (local) foot forward.
Regardless, Peter Oberacker is a fine prospect.
On the one hand, he’s got a down-home personality, a friendly smile and welcoming demeanor.
He’s easy for everyone to talk to, evident in his repeated election in the Town of Maryland and, now from his Maryland/Westford, Worcester/Decatur district on the county board.
On the other hand, he can operate in sophisticated circles as well, working for Fortune 500 U.S. companies and German food-processor Budenheim.
He’d be equally comfortable on the sidewalks of Edmeston and Albany’s plush Senate chambers.
Plus, he has ideas and the oomph to move them forward, evident in championing the 30-job distribution center on Schenevus’ I-88 exit.
Let’s get behind an Otsego County successor to Senator Seward.
So far, Oberacker’s the only one. Other ones may emerge. But if they don’t, he’ll do fine.
SCHENEVUS – County Rep. Peter Oberacker, R-Schenevus, who is also president of FormTech Solutions, a national food research consultancy, is exploring running for the 51st District state Senate seat to succeed James L. Seward, he said yesterday.
Last evening, Assemblyman Chris Tague, R-Schoharie, considered the front-runner for the nomination. pulled out, saying he has commitments to fulfill in his 102nd District job.
Otsego County GOP Chairman Vince Casale said he will be introducing Oberacker to other county chairmen in the nine-county district over the next two weeks to firm up support for the candidate.
“I don’t think (county government) is run as effectively as the people who elect us should demand it should be,” county Rep. Peter Oberacker, R-Schenevus, inset at right, told the 10 people who attended an informational session this evening in Oneonta City Hall on the county Board of Representatives’ plan to create a $150,000 county manager job to run the $116 million operation. Members of the county board’s Intergovernmental Affairs Committee – chair Meg Kennedy, and county Reps. Michele Farwell, Liz Shannon, Andrew Marietta and Oberacker – repeated presentations they gave at last week’s monthly county board meeting. In the Q&A, Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig, top photo, who works with a city manager, said policy questions will be still be debated in open meetings, but operational decisions – his example: which roads get paved – will be made out of the public eye. A second informational meeting – the League of Women Voters is running the sessions for the county board – will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the county courthouse in Cooperstown. The official public hearing will be at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 4, prior to the county board’s monthly meeting. Seated at rostrum in top photo are, from left, the League’s Stephanie Bauer, and county Representatives Gary Koutnik, David Bliss (chairman), Farwell, Shannon, Kennedy and, with back to camera, Andrew Stammel. Behind Herzig are two new county reps, Clark Oliver and Jill Basile.
COOPERSTOWN – A coalition of Republican and Democratic reps took control of the floor at this morning’s county Board of Representatives’ meeting and approved the $151,000 sale of the 87-acre Rose Hill property to the Otsego Land Trust, a non-profit not required to pay property taxes.
The land, atop Panther Mountain on the north end of the Town of Otsego, connects with the Land Trust’s 85-acre Fetterlee Forest, doubling the trust’s holding, which features a scenic overlook of Canadarago Lake and Deowongo Island, as well as hiking trails.
The sale had been stymied in the county board’s committee system since April, failing to pass the Public Works Committee, then failing to pass the Administrative Committee. Normally, that would have ended it.
COOPERSTOWN – Rich Brimmer believes he’s part of a success story, and as the newly appointed Otsego County highway superintendent, he intends to extend it.
Selected yesterday by the county Board of Representatives, he was at the superintendent’s desk this morning, as he’s been as deputy superintendent since Bill Mason – “a great mentor” – retired last November after three years on the job.
COOPERSTOWN – Picking up on Oneonta Common Council’s decision to sell the Westcott parking lot at 226 Main St., the county Board of Representatives today formed a task force to explore selling Old City Hall, located right next door.
Freshman Oneonta rep Danny Lapin, D-13, raised the task force idea at the meeting, and was named to chair it.
County Rep. Peter Oberacker, R-Schenevus, who chairs the Public Works Committee, told his colleagues he has had preliminary conversations with Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig about a prospective sale. But he emphasized, “nothing has been done as of this point. We have not made any decisions, and this is simply exploratory.”
EDUCATION: Associate Degree Food Sale & Distribution
PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE: CEO Formtech Solutions Inc.
COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: C.H. Graham Hose Company, Schenevus Valley Lodge 592 Masons, Schenevus Methodist Church, Town of Maryland Board, Town of Maryland supervisor, Foundation of Excellence board member.
FAMILY: Wife Shannon, daughter Holli, son Derek.
PHILOSOPHY OF GOVERNMENT: Less is more.
MAJOR ISSUES FACING OTSEGO COUNTY: Rebuilding our infrastructure while keeping taxes in line. A County Manager would be a great start.
MY QUALITIES: Having served on my local government as Supervisor, it gave me an appreciation for those that serve. What it takes financially to run a municipal entity, and the importance of communication.
“The reason a lot of people don’t recognize opportunity is because it usually goes around wearing overalls looking like hard work.” Thomas A. Edison.
In today’s weekly report, “Morning Headlines,” on WAMC/Northeast Public Radio, Jim Kevlin, editor/publisher of www.AllOTSEGO.com (and Hometown Oneonta & the Freeman’s Journal), reports on plans to develop 130 acres off the Schenevus exit to I-88 for Otsego County’s first just-in-time distribution center, which may yield up to 500 jobs.
Editor’s Note: This is the third of seven profiles, one each on the seven new members of the Otsego County Board of Representatives elected Nov. 3, that will appear each Wednesday up until they take office Jan. 1. Next week, David Bliss, R-District 5 (Towns of Middlefield, Roseboom, Cherry Valley).
By LIBBY CUDMORE • for AllOTSEGO.com
MARYLAND – “My wife told me I was looking portly, that I should take up running,” joked Peter Oberacker, Maryland town supervisor. “So I ran for office!”
Oberacker, a Republican, is the newlyelected Otsego County Board representative for District 6 – Decatur, Maryland, Westford and Worcester. He ran unopposed, hand-picked by Don Lindberg, who is retiring from the county board to become Worcester town supervisor.
“When he announced that he wouldn’t be running, he asked if I would be interested, and I told him ‘Absolutely not’!” he said. “I didn’t think I had the skill set.”
But Lindberg believed in him, and approached him again a few weeks later. “He told me I had the skill set he needed – I had a background in business and I had raised a family locally. He twisted my arm!”